RAZORED ZEN

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Skyrim Victory

I’ve posted here before about my favorite video game, which is Skyrim. This is an heroic fantasy game, in which one can play various types of heroes in a fantasy setting full of demi-gods, assassins, wizards and dragons. I’ve chosen to be a Nord warrior, although you can also take the thief’s route, the assassin’s route, or the mage’s route. The Nord are a hardy Northern race akin roughly to Vikings. My character’s name is Ruane.

There is an overall story arch to the game in which the player becomes the Dovakin, meaning kin to dragons. Dragons had disappeared from the land but something is now bringing them back to life, and the Dovakin has to solve that mystery and defeat the enemy causing it. Along the way there are lots of side entanglements, including having to choose between the southern empire (basically Rome) that rules the land or a local uprising that hopes to throw the empire out of Skyrim. You also have to deal with vampires and werewolves along the way, or become one, and explore many caves, grottos, and ruins that contain monsters.

I’ve now solved the major mystery of the game but am still playing some side quests. I really like the exploration part of the game, and there’s a couple of other elements that I like very much that Lana laughs at me about. First, you get to smith up your own weapons and armor from materials you find in your journeys. Then you can add enchantments such as fire or frost resistance, enhanced archery skill, added shock damage etc to the weapons and armor you make.  I’ve had tremendous fun doing this, and have continued it after the main quest is over.

Second, books exist in the Skyrim universe--all kinds of books, such as spell tomes, history texts, explorer’s journals and so on. And you can acquire houses in the game that have bookshelves in them where you can add or take away books. I’ve steadily been acquiring all the books I can find as I’ve gone through the game, and now that the major part is over I’ve started filling my bookshelves. In this aspect the game is much like my real life. And I take joy in it.

I’ll mention one more fun element of the game to end this post. A skill that players develop as they move through the game is the ability to “shout.” Shout is a magical attack and there are shouts that can freeze things, set things on fire, slow down time and many others. My favorite shout is one called “Unrelenting Force,” which hits the enemy with a intense blast of air that can send them flying. Lana also gets a kick out of this shout and has actually put up a video on You Tube of me using this shout on various targets. The music she set it to really makes the vid. If you’d like to check it out, it’s HERE.  (The horse you see in some of the clips is Shadow Mere, a pretty cool companion beast that you can get in the game.)
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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Oh the Cruelty, or is that Cruelness?


Well, been almost a week since I posted on the blog. I don’t know how time gets away from me. For one, we had preregistration last week, and I gave a test on Friday and got 30 essays from another class on Friday. Lots of grading over the weekend.

I had also been doing some writing. I finished a short horror story called “Long Dead Woman in a Black Dress,” which I’ll be submitting soon. I’m about halfway done with an SF story that carries the working title “Electric Love in Blue.” And I’ve drafted the first scene of a new Krieg story, which I’m calling “Where All the Souls are Hollow.”

Then came Sunday. On Sunday, all the plumbing in the house seemed to clog up, and it’s gotten worse. Plumber is supposed to come today (Tuesday) and I hope the news won’t be too bad. I don’t know about you, but these kinds of domestic crises take a toll on me. I know I should roll with the flow (or non-flow considering our current issue), but I just find it hard to concentrate when dealing with this kind of stuff. I let it get to me too much.

On the review front, I think the interview over on Prashant’s blog came off well. I sure appreciate him putting it up. On the less positive side, I also noticed a couple of days ago that Bitter Steel has a new review and it is a 1 star stomp. Looks like it went up about a month ago but this is the first I’ve seen it.  I apparently achieved the notable level of “tripe!”  This is actually the first 1 star review I’ve ever gotten for anything so I have to keep it in perspective.

Whether reviews are good or bad, I always read them to see if I can pick up any insights into what readers like or don’t like. This one was not very helpful, though. Besides the “tripe” label, he adds: “Then I stumbled upon the word 'cruelness', and I knew that it was a lost cause. Out of all the actual words the author could have chosen, he picked 'cruelness'. The word is 'cruelty', Shakespeare.”

Of course, cruelness is a perfectly good word that is found in dictionaries everywhere and is even counted as a word in Scrabble. I remember considering “cruelty” in the context of the story but I felt that ‘cruelness’ had the better sound in that particular situation.  So, if the use of “cruelness” instead of “cruelty” can make such an impact on this particular reader, there was no way I’d ever reach him anyway. Frankly, I’ve been much more troubled by 3 star reviews that took the work seriously and found something lacking.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Reviews, Updated

Updated News:

Prashant, over at Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema, has now put up the review of Killing Trail, and there is an interview with yours truly.  I hope you'll get a chance to drop by and leave a comment. I'll be checking back and forth during the day to answer any questions that folks might have for me.


Also, Aimless Writer (Jeanne) still has her review of Harmland: Dark Tales up over on her blog. I'm very glad to see she enjoyed it. If you'd like, you can read her review here. She has a couple of books of her own available that you should check out.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fits and Starts: Drips and Drabs

I've actually written a fair number of words lately but ultimately have not made a lot of "progress." I've started four different projects that would be novel length but all four fizzled out fairly quickly. One will eventually be finished; I just don't really feel like working on it right at the moment. Of the others, one will probably go nowhere because I was trying to capture an urban fantasy vibe and it just isn't my genre. I've tried it before and never been able to complete such a piece. I know what the problem is on the third work and it needs rewriting because my scenes were too much telling and not enough showing. That I can do but I've got to get the energy up and school has been pretty draining lately.

I did finish a couple of short stories and some memoir stuff. Some of that is submitted now and I hope for good results. I've been noting a decided lack of focus and discipline in myself of late. I know what I need to do but I'm not feeling too guilty about letting the work slide. Anyway, as I've learned over the years, even putting words on paper in drips and drabs can result in finished work. It just takes time.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Today's Writing Quiz

Today, my writing students are going to get the following, non-graded quiz. All the examples here are taken from actual student papers handed in to me in the past. Although there are some outright errors below, most of the sentences are serviceable but wordy or convoluted.  

What is either wrong or weak about the following sentences?  Revise to remove those problems.

 1.  In order to analyze their results, the researchers used an ANOVA.
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2.  The study would seem to suggest that males are more physically aggressive than females.
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3.  It has been found that honey bees can detect ultraviolet radiation.
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4.  The study examined the role of anxiety levels in racial stereotyping.
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5.  The researchers were interested in studying the effects of temperature on test taking.
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6.  The patient exhibited flattened effect.
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7.  When the participant was exposed to the test stimulus they showed a strong reaction.
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8.  Charles Darwin finds that there are remarkable similarities between humans and other primate species.
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9.  There have been a lot of studies done to investigate the role of anger in punishment.
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10.  Heroin is an elicit drug.
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11.  They gathered data from 17 women; all of whom were taking birth control pills.
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12.  Participants were asked to sign a consent form before filling out the survey.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Noir at the Bar: The Readings:

So I made it the Noir at the Bar reading at the Irish House on St. Charles last night. I got there a bit early because I’d heard they had good food and figured to eat and drink a beer or two before the festivities began. Jāson Stuart, the organizer, and his wife, Karen, were also early so we all sat down to a meal. Karen and I had the house burger and we both agreed it was great. Jāson had the big Irish breakfast, with various kinds of sausages and puddings. Looked delicious and I’ll have to try that next time. Wonder of wonders, we talked books and writing. Who’d a thunk it?

Folks began to trickle in and we actually started the reading around 8:00. Jāson read a short, poignant piece from a work that should be out soon with a very intriguing main character. Heather Graham then read a piece from one of her published works. This was the first time I’d met Ms. Graham. She was very nice. The great Megan Abbott read next, from a work in progress. Everyone admired her description of rattlesnakes!  I didn’t get a chance to talk to her a lot but did mention knowing her mother, Patti Abbott. She laughed and said that everyone knew her mother.

Laura Lippman was unable to appear, but we also had readings from myself, Greg Herren, and Nate Southard. Greg was the only person besides me with a piece set in the New Orleans area. I believe he said the title of his tale was: “A Streetcar named Death.” Nate and his wife came all the way from Austin, giving them the win in the travel department. Nate’s piece featured a small town sheriff who is not only dealing with crimes but with the onset of Alzheimer’s. What an interesting concept.

Besides the readers, there were probably about a dozen other folks there, as well as some people listening in who had come to the bar because it was…well…a bar. I have to call out three of my Xavier colleagues for coming out to support me: Elizabeth and Elliott Hammer, and Kate Eskine. Kate brought hubby along. He didn’t seem to have been dragged kicking and screaming. Elizabeth is such a sweetheart she even wore a hat with a “Charles Gramlich Fan Club” attachment. It was great to have them there and I thank them. I am not worthy!

After it was all over, several of us sat around and visited and had another drink or two. We talked more writing and traded some books among ourselves. I really had a good time. I don’t get out a lot and this kind of event always makes me wonder why since I have a good time when I do. Thanks to Jāson for organizing and to everyone who read or came to listen. I’m hearing rumors of another one next year so that sounds pretty cool.

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